Once You Find Out Why Graham Crackers Were Invented, Your Sex Life Will Never Be The Same
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of crackers?
What do you think of when you hear the word “crackers”? Or “breakfast cereals”? How about your morning routine before school?
Or maybe masturbate?
If you answered yes or no to the last question, prepare to never look at Graham crackers the same way again.
Delve into the surprising history of Graham crackers, revealing their origins in the Victorian era’s perceptions of sexual desires and their connection to various health problems.
Meet Reverend Sylvester Graham, the mind behind these crackers, who sought to suppress sexual urges by advocating for a bland diet. Learn how the initially unappetizing Graham crackers were created from unbleached wheat flour, wheat bran, and ground germ.
Explore Graham’s broader influence on clean living and vegetarianism, and understand why his extreme views led to a decline in popularity. Finally, trace the evolution of Graham crackers into the sweet treats we enjoy today, thanks to commercialization by the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco).
A History of Sin
Let’s go back to the 1800s when sex was basically seen as the root of all evil. Back then, giving in to sexual desires, especially masturbation, was believed to cause all sorts of problems, from headaches to epilepsy to actual insanity.
In “Search Lights on Health: Light on Dark Corners,” a Victorian guide to purity circulating at the time, there were suggestions for the “secret habit home treatment”; that is, masturbation.
The guide talks about how to keep the “patient” entertained with interesting topics of the day, exercise in the fresh air, and a diet of whole-grain bread, oatmeal, boiled wheat, and other simple foods.
Who Helped Propel This Belief Into Widespread Acceptance?
None other than the Reverend Sylvester Graham of Connecticut invented the graham cracker, also known as ‘crackers’, ‘water crackers’, or ‘dumplings’.
The Reverend invented the cracker cookie as a way to prevent sexual urges.
Graham proclaimed that a person could become physically sick from sex, materialism, gluttony, and, above all, masturbation, which he claimed during his many popular speeches “inflames the brain more than natural arousal.” For Graham, sex was the true destroyer of society.
Starting in the 1830s, Graham launched a seemingly unstoppable anti-masturbation movement, preaching that a bland diet could curb sexual appetite (you know, like Atkins, but anti-masturbation), so he made a snack as boring as never touching yourself again.
And I really mean boring: Graham crackers weren’t originally sweetened with honey or cinnamon, nor enjoyed with chocolate and marshmallows around a roaring campfire. They were stale pieces of cardboard made from unbleached wheat flour, wheat bran, and ground germ.
The Graham cracker was the Reverend’s alternative to the “miserable garbage” that was mass-produced bread, a food that he believed should not only be baked at home by your mother (not in some crappy bakery!) but also that it was messing up diets and thereby inciting inappropriate sexual urges.
Graham is considered to be one of the fathers of the first American vegetarian movement. Graham had a particular notion that Americans could protect themselves from debilitating stimulation and find salvation through clean living and healthy food. He gained thousands of devoted followers, who called themselves Grahamites, and even wrote to Graham about how his diet had cured them of physical and mental illness.
The Graham diet consisted of simply prepared soft foods with lots of whole grains, most fruits and vegetables, and no spices, meat, alcohol, or tobacco. Even pepper was prohibited. And all permitted foods were to be eaten in small amounts with only two meals a day.
Graham also championed radical ideas about health and hygiene, such as bathing regularly, breathing fresh air and sunlight, drinking clean water, wearing comfortable clothing, and exercising daily.
Graham was harassed by a mob in 1834 for trying to lecture women on chastity, and later by angry bakers and butchers who felt he was hurting their businesses.
His popularity waned in the late 1830s because, surprisingly, people realized how extreme his views were. He died in 1851, but not before inspiring a certain cereal manufacturer (Kellogg’s).
It wasn’t until 1900 that his cookies began to be sold commercially by independent bakers. In 1931, the National Biscuit Company, which eventually became Nabisco, introduced a variety of sugar, and Graham’s asceticism was completely forgotten.
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Sources: https://ivu.org/history/usa19/graham.html https://www.britannica.com/biography/Sylvester-Graham https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/01/looking-to-quell-sexual-urges-consider-the-graham-cracker/282769/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sylvester_Graham